A nuclear war simulation shows the devastation we could face if one country pulls the trigger
Linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky once wrote that "there are two problems for our species' survival — nuclear war and environmental catastrophe — and we're hurtling towards them. Knowingly."
In a bid to highlight the errors of our ways and the sheer devastation that would ensue from nuclear war, computer scientist Christopher Minson created a tool that simulates the impact of a nuclear attack on the U.S.
The creator said it is "critical" the public understands the nature of nuclear war and what it would entail, as per a report by Newsweek.
Global tensions lead to increased fear of nuclear war
Tensions between the West and Russia have reached unprecedented levels for this century amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The war has led to increased discussion over the probability of nuclear war, with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — who has helped Ukraine by providing Starlink satellite internet coverage over the country — recently posting a de-escalation plan on Twitter involving Ukraine ceding Crimea to Russia. After the plan was poorly received in Ukraine, Musk tweeted: "if Russia is faced with the choice of losing Crimea or using battlefield nukes, they will choose the latter."
Computer scientist Christopher Minson says the war in Ukraine, and the increased fear of nuclear war, has driven a huge amount of traffic to his website, where users can gain access to his simulation.
Minson says his tool is available as a public service to educate users about the consequences of nuclear war. In recent times, it has also served to highlight increased global tensions. In an interview with Newsweek, Minson said "the site has become a bit of a proxy measure for international tensions. Whenever I see a big uptick in usage, I know that something has happened to make the world more nervous. Conversely, when traffic calms down, I know that we're in a relatively peaceful period with no news."
Simulating nationwide nuclear devastation
Minson's website features a tool that simulates a scenario in which roughly 1,200 warheads — approximately seven percent of the global total — were to strike the United States. The computer scientist said that number wasn't picked at random; it's based on scientific data, known warhead yields, and U.S. targets derived from declassified military information.
Using the tool, anyone can see how the two-hour nuclear attack would play out in a fraction of the time — one second in the simulation is equivalent to one minute in real life. Nuclear warheads would strike key government and military targets as well as highly-populated regions, yielding unprecedented destruction.
The simulation ends with an estimated casualty count of 183,256,291, which is more than half the U.S. population.
Minson told Newsweek "it is critical that the public understand this threat. They need to see, clearly and viscerally, just how universal and destructive a nuclear war would be. A scientifically based nuclear simulation is one way to do that."
On his website, the computer scientist notes that there are over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, the majority of which are owned by the U.S. and Russia. Many had thought the threat of nuclear war had long subsided with the end of the Cold War, but recent events in Ukraine bring the possibility of global destruction at an unprecedented scale out of the shadows and back into stark daylight.